White Sox take no joy in Nathan's woes

White Sox take no joy in Nathan's woes

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- They awoke Tuesday to learn that one of their main roadblocks to an American League Central title potentially had been removed, but the White Sox couldn't rejoice over Joe Nathan's injury.

Nathan, the closer for three Minnesota division winners in six years, has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. An injury that usually leads to Tommy John reconstructive surgery makes Chicago's task easier.

However, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he is too wrapped up in his own concerns, and team captain Paul Konerko noted that whenever the rug is pulled out from under them, the Twins have demonstrated an uncanny ability to always land on their feet

"Every time they have someone go down, someone else steps in and they never miss a beat," Konerko said. "Nathan is a lights-out guy, but they'll figure it out. Probably someone we're not even thinking of now will step up for them."

"I feel for Gardy," Guillen said of Twins counterpart Ron Gardenhire. "This obviously hurts their bullpen. However they adjust, overall their bullpen is obviously weaker.

"But I'm too busy worrying about [White Sox closer] Bobby Jenks and our other pitchers. We've had Bobby go down for a long time [principally, for a month with a lower-back problem in mid-2008] and no one really felt sorry for us. But you don't want to see anyone get injured."

"[Nathan] is obviously one of the top closers in the game," said Mark Teahen. "The Twins have a strong bullpen and they can weather this somewhat. We'll see how it affects them. I was on a team that lost its closer, and something like this can certainly impact an entire bullpen."

Teahen referred to his former Kansas City team's Mike MacDougal, idled by various ailments the season after posting 21 saves for a 106-loss club.

"It's tough for a guy like [Nathan] to go down," said left-hander John Danks. "It lengthens their game. With him in the bullpen, they played seven, eight innings. Now they'll have to play a full nine-inning game."

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"Nathan is not an easy at-bat," added Teahen, who may be entering his first season with the White Sox but already knows what they think of the right-hander.

"In six, seven years, I can't remember a good day against him," Guillen said. "Oh, no doubt he's been tough. Even [Mariano] Rivera hasn't been as tough against us."

In 2009, Nathan made 10 appearances against the White Sox, eight of them Twins wins. Those eight saves jacked his career total against the Sox to 24, with a 2.06 ERA for 49 appearances.

That ERA actually took a beating the last time the White Sox played under the Metrodome, on Sept. 2, when back-to-back homers by Gordon Beckham and Konerko blew the 2-0 lead Nathan had entered to protect.

"They probably had him undergo tests after that home run," Konerko said with a grin, before growing serious. "I've had a chance to meet and get to know him, and he's really a good guy, and you don't want to see that happen. It may seem like a good story for us and some other teams, and it's natural to talk about it when a significant player goes down. But we feel like it's none of our business."

It isn't much of a consolation for Gardenhire, but if you were going to lose a game-changing pitcher, you would want to lose him in early March.

"It's never a good time to lose someone like Joe Nathan, but at least now they can go out and get some help," Guillen said. "Gardy will have time to find out maybe who can step in and do a job. Who will be the guy? I'd rather face anyone other than Nathan."

Minnesota general manager Bill Smith would have numerous options if he chose to explore a possible trade for a substitute closer. Teams currently with multiple relievers with closing experience include the Angels (Brian Fuentes and Fernando Rodney), Milwaukee (Trevor Hoffman and Dave Riske) and the Dodgers (Jonathan Braxton and George Sherrill).

Other teams in camp with an incumbent closer and one rehabilitating include Oakland (Andrew Bailey and Brad Ziegler) and Seattle (Dave Aardsma and Chad Cordero).

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.